How one man’s faithfulness led to transformation in a tribe in Africa.
By Gregg Matte
When people think of difference makers, we tend to think of successful people: powerful politicians, popular musicians, athletes with max contracts, Fortune 500 CEOs. They can definitely be used by God in huge ways. But, at times, this kind of difference making is focused on the self, and it doesn’t last. When we try to make a difference by being successful for our glory, we rob God of his glory, and we put our efforts toward something that may make a difference for a little while, but isn’t eternal. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “I hated all my work that I labored at under the sun because I must leave it to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool?” (2:18–19). In other words, even if you do something that makes a difference for your whole life, the person who comes after you could ruin it.
But that’s not so when we make a difference with Jesus. It’s not so when the gospel is what drives the difference. When God, through his Word and through his people, is changing hearts and lives.
That’s why God so often uses seemingly unsuccessful people as difference makers. It’s not always the celebrity athlete or musician, it’s not the most attractive or wealthy person; it’s weak, unimpressive people, like all of us. It’s just men and women who hear the Lord and do something about it. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. So when God uses us to make a difference, it’s very clear who’s doing the heavy lifting. And he’s the one who gets the glory.
When people are changed at the heart level and God gives them courage, they become difference makers. They live on purpose, and in their intentionality God does things through them that make it clear that God is the one at work, and he gets all the glory. I want to tell you a story about a friend of mine who is one such difference maker.
A member of the church I pastor was on a mission trip in Africa. On one of the days while he was there, some of the group members went on a safari—a sort of fun day in the middle of a challenging, difficult week. His safari guide’s name was Thomas.
This friend of mine realized during the safari that Thomas was not a believer in Jesus. But my friend knew the good news that Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save the world, and that those who believe in Jesus will have eternal life.
So my friend told Thomas the good news. He started with the heart. He had courage. He was a difference maker. He allowed himself to be used by God to speak the truth of the gospel to Thomas, and Thomas believed. He responded in faith and received Christ.
Thomas realized, not long after, that he had a call on his life. So he, like my friend, decided to be a difference maker. He wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and watch his friends and family stumble through life in the darkness. So he started sharing the gospel. He led half of his tribe to Christ. Next thing you know, Thomas the unbelieving safari guide has turned into Pastor Thomas, shepherding a growing church of more than 200.
Pastor Thomas’ church was also helping with a school in the tribe where more than 300 children attended. The local government saw the good work the school was doing, and decided to build another school. Now our church gets to partner with that church and the schools to provide textbooks. Now, because of our working relationship with the tribe and the tribe’s good relationship with the government, our church has been able to assist in building water wells so the tribe can have access to clean and healthy water. People are being saved spiritually with the good news of Jesus and physically with schools and textbooks and clean water. And why? Because one guy decided to be a difference maker.
So what about you? Are you ready to get off the sidelines? To learn from my friend who shared the gospel with Thomas? To follow the example of Pastor Thomas? If so, say yes, start something, join something, sign up, share, serve, make a difference.
Prayer: I was made for more than watching. I have a history-changing, difference-making, life- giving, Spirit-empowered legacy to leave. Jesus, I ask you to work deeply in me and clearly through me as I pray, give, and go in your love. I am a difference maker. In Jesus’ name. Amen.